Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

If there was ever a subject for the Sunday shows, certainly this is it.

By Kevin Drum's count there are seven cabinet secretaries now left standing. Four of them are at second-tier posts (Interior, Labor, HUD and VA) and another, Treasury Secretary Snow, is just (briefly) being kept around for humiliation value -- like the goofy kid in the club whose role and utility is to provide a ready target for the application of wedgies.

And that leaves Don Rumsfeld who, according to this report tonight on CNN, is not only still standing, but will keep standing probably for the rest of the Bush presidency ...

The official said the president asked Rumsfeld, 72, to stay during a weekly meeting on Monday because the nation is at war and he is the best person for the job. Rumsfeld has said he wants to finish his reforms at the Pentagon and continue overseeing the Iraq war and that country's hoped-for transformation.

And of all these <$Ad$>people -- Powell, Ashcroft, Paige, Abraham, Thompson, Veneman, Evans -- does any of them hold a candle to Don Rumsfeld when it comes to the number of screw-ups, debacles and disasters that have happened on his watch?

I mean, it's not even close, is it?

One criticism of the president that loomed large in the last election -- and not just among Democrats but with many Republicans too -- was that this president either does not recognize or will not admit mistakes. And whichever it was, there was no accountability for them. In most cases those 'mistakes' people were talking about were ones under Rumsfeld's purview. And he would seem to be the only one -- certainly the only one of the principals -- that the president insists on keeping in place.

In this administration, the buck may not stop at the Oval Office, but the hard line against accountability sure does start there.

Mailbag ...

"Like Andrew (at least I suspect this is so, though he can speak for himself), I'm a good deal less doctrinaire on civil liberties issues than, I suspect, many of the readers of this site. As Justice Jackson put it, the constitution is not a suicide pact. And a lot of the things that were done in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 were, I think, justifiable in theory, if not always in execution."

Shame on you.

You - and idiots like you - are evil and you don't even know it.

You don't believe in human rights. You believe in winning. Simple. Might makes right. Back to the jungle.

Dumb. You lost me.

John S.

Certainly, there'll be <$NoAd$>more of this.

Lincoln and habeas corpus.

I think Andrew Sullivan is just right in his run-down of what is now emerging about the system of secrecy, torture and extra-constitutional power the Bush administration has set up at Gitmo and other far-flung undisclosed locations around the world.

Like Andrew (at least I suspect this is so, though he can speak for himself), I'm a good deal less doctrinaire on civil liberties issues than, I suspect, many of the readers of this site. As Justice Jackson put it, the constitution is not a suicide pact. And a lot of the things that were done in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 were, I think, justifiable in theory, if not always in execution.

But what stands out about this administration is not the willingness to sacrifice certain civil liberties safeguards in the face of demonstrable necessity, but the eagerness and almost delight in doing so. Having walled themselves off from the more harmless varieties, this is apparently the one form of transgression the Ashcroftites cannot resist.

Most telling is the addiction to secrecy. The clearest, or rather the most basic, test of whether strong measures are compatible with a free society is whether the government is willing to be open with the public about what it is doing in their name. By every measure, this administration is not.

If you haven't seen it, a House Appropriations Committee staffer, Richard E. Efford, has stepped forward to take responsibility for the Istook Amendment. His boss is Rep. Istook. But he says he never ran it past the congressman -- at least not until it was too late to do anything about it. Sleepless nights and the agonies of the appropriations process are to blame, we're told, not bad intentions. The Post has an interview with Efford and the details of his story.

Like Rep. Istook, Bob Novak is a very sorry columnist. Only he's never said he was sorry about the Plame episode, even though it was one of his sorriest. Now, before I get myself too tangled up in verbal gymnastics about how being Bob Novak means never having to say you're sorry, check out the new Novak profile just out from the Washington Monthly: 'Bob in Paradise: How Novak created his own ethics-free zone'.

Don't lose sight of the Tom DeLay crony Indian gaming (aka Indian shakedown) scandal. Bull Moose provides today's update.

We got word this morning that everyone at HHS had been called together at noon for a big announcement/meeting. And there it is, Thompson resigns.

If you're curious to see CBS's rationale for rejecting the UCC inclusion ad, as clipped from the letter they sent the church, click here.

In the coming Social Security debate, Democrats should dust-off Clinton's 'mend it, don't end it' rhetoric. I can't take credit for this idea; I heard someone suggest it in an email exchange. If it's a bad idea I take the grief for pushing it forward. But I think it is very shrewd since it frames the debate in advance as equating privatization with abolishing Social Security, which of course it does.

I'm not saying the phrase should be adopted intact without any adjustments or that it's a perfect fit. But this debate is a classic case where framing the issue is key -- the strategic choice that determines who wins the battle before it even begins.

The strength of the Republican privatization argument -- and all their rhetoric and strategy point to this -- is the contention that privatization is just a reform, a way to improve or save Social Security, or to put it simply, a way to make sure people get their checks when they retire. But what this is really about is abolishing Social Security; and that fact needs to be taken as granted -- not even a subject of debate -- in the way Democrats frame the debate and how they talk about the subject.

To look at this debate in any other way is to be willfully ignorant of history. Republicans -- particularly the party's conservative wing which now entirely dominates the party -- have wanted to abolish Social Security for half a century.

This is a delicate topic. But I think it's worth asking.

If you look in today's Reliable Source column in the Washington Post, the final item is identified as a verbatim press release ...

On Nov. 21, Vice President Dick Cheney (along with approximately six Secret Service agents) visited the Johnston & Murphy retail store at Tyson's Corner Shopping Center in McLean. Cheney has been a longtime Johnston & Murphy customer, but recently found it necessary to make a personal visit to the store because his shoe size changed to a size 10EEE. Cheney selected the Lasalle wingtip loafer in brushed mahogany. He also bought a pair of shoe trees to keep his 10EEEs in top shape. Bob Ciuffoletti, store manager, has helped Cheney with his footwear needs in the past. . . . 'It was such a pleasure to see him again and help him select a pair of shoes that fit,' said Ciuffoletti.

The item does not identify <$Ad$>who the press release is from. But it turns out that it came from the shoe store chain, not the White House.

But why is the Vice President's shoe size getting bigger? Of course, it doesn't explicitly say they've gotten bigger only that his feet have changed sizes. And 10EEE is a rather large size.

Here's why I say this. Swollen feet is a symptom of congestive heart failure, particularly when the enlargement is in both feet (thus signalling a systemic cause.) It is by no means the only thing it can mean. Ankle and foot swelling can also be caused by fluid build-up due to renal insufficiency, among other causes. And, of course, even later in life one's shoe size can simply change for entirely benign reasons.

But Cheney's history of severe heart disease at least points to the possibility of a heart-related cause.

If you look around on the web you'll find many descriptions of foot and ankle swelling as a possible symptom of congestive heart failure. And this afternoon I spoke to a physician to whom I described an unnamed man in his mid-60s with a history of heart disease and newly-enlarged feet. Congestive heart failure was the first possibility he suggested, particularly if the enlargement was in both feet.

Now, diagnosis by press release is a rather inexact form of medicine. And this doctor made clear that he simply lacked enough information to make even a tentative diagnosis, let alone his not being able to examine the patient. I should also make explicitly clear that I know nothing else about Cheney's health beyond what is already publicly known. Perhaps the shoe chain PR folks are just wrong that the size of the Vice President's feet has changed. Or perhaps they have changed, but they've shrunken. But given the Vice President's medical history and his position in the line of succession to the presidency, it seems like a question worth asking.